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Can you give me a definition of the word literature?

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norlynfatimah | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 5, 2012 at 8:00 AM via web

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Can you give me a definition of the word literature?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 5, 2012 at 8:13 AM (Answer #1)

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The term literature stems from a English cognate to a Latin translation of a Greek term. The Greeks used two terms for things we now consider literature. The first, poetry, encompassed works in metrical form and was a purely formal definition. The second, grammata, literally means ‘letters. (as in letters of the alphabet) but referred to `the things studied by secondary pupils in grammar schools`, and constituted works of various genres (poetry, drama, oratory, history, philosophy) that were considered culturally important and stylistically good models for students learning to write well in Greek. The Latin term ’littera’ is equivalent and means both letters of the alphabet and admirable works of poetry, drama, oratory and other genres the French would call ‘belles lettres’. The English term ‘literature’ originally had a similar scope, but was gradually narrowed to refer to only poetry and fiction, although with the advent of ‘creative non-fiction’ may be returning to an earlier sense if ‘culturally significant and stylistically impressive verbal composition’.

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hipstaa | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted February 5, 2012 at 9:35 AM (Answer #2)

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lit·er·a·ture/ˈlit(ə)rəCHər :


  1. Written works, esp. those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit: "a great work of literature".
  2. Books and writings published on a particular subject: "the literature on environmental epidemiology".

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